tracks


A great piece from Bob over at 4Ever3 on the importance of local race tracks. It reminds me a lot of what the Petaluma Fairground track went through.
Folks moving next to a race track and then complaining about it. We lose short tracks and home tracks each and every year. It sucks.

This is one of the things that means the most to me in my quest to try to ensure people understand how important race track heritage is. Local history, local pride and local legends are alive at every home town track.

Clickity! The Tale of a Grandstand

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NASCAR just announced the schedule for 2011! Phew, Martinsville kept both dates and the west was re-sorted just a bit.
The season will also see an addition, Kentucky Speedway. The Bluegrass State hasn’t had a Cup race since 1954. Hop on over to NASCAR Ranting and Raving for a peek at 1954.
You know that I don’t have that much to say about another 1.5 miler being added to the season. Really. Short tracks! Give me short tracks!!
ahem.
Here you go!

Enjoy!

Clicky! Another 1.5 Miler? Let’s Talk 1954!

I was very excited, as one might guess, to learn that the History Channel was going to air a documentary (docu-drama) on Bowman-Gray Stadium. The advertising for the show before it aired, boasted that 61 years of tempers and hard racing made Bowman-Gray part of the “holy land” of racing. And it does. And it is the oldest sanctioned track. The stories, the rivalries and the feuds which are a part of the track can be traced back through the history of stock car racing in North Carolina..

Which they totally and utterly ignore.

Madhouse completely disregards any history that the track represents and instead focuses on the lives of two racers and their bitter rivalry. Which is fine. Except that it is the History channel. I don’t think that I could be anymore disappointed in the series.  Rather than focus on a part of America that is still stereotyped and exploring the contributions of stock car racing to American history and rather than celebrating a real American institution (61 years is not that far off from 100 years of stock car racing!) the program focuses on what can only be perceived from the outside as a whole bunch of rednecks.

Stock car racing is a passionate, intense sport. And yes, there is the cultural element that most people negatively stereotype as rednecks. But you know, all these elements can be explored in such a way which actually examines what makes stock car racing exciting and what makes such a unique and important part of American culture.

The second episode is tonight. I will catch it on the second roll through at 11. I wish that I could say that I was excited to see it. Other than the racing clips which feed my need for the racing season to start up again, there is very little that Madhouse can offer.

Really. It could have been.
When Brasington (yup, the same fellow that built our Lady of Race Tracks, Darlington) built the North Carolina Motor Speedway, it was ten miles between the towns of Rockingham and Hamlet.
Both towns knew exactly what a race track would bring- revenue, people, excitement and, heck, racing! Both the towns insisted that the Speedway was within their town limits. And they both wanted the track to be named for their communities. Hamlet Speedway! Rockingham Speedway!(Hey- that’s got a nice ring..come to think on it)! Rockinghamlet Speedway!

To make everyone happy, the track was named after the great state of North Carolina- it would belong to everyone. But to make everyone really happy, Brasington registered the phone number to the track in Hamlet and the mailing address in Rockingham!
And, to make double sure, a grandstand each was named for the towns.
Along the frontstretch, Rockingham Grandstands..along the back, Hamlet Grandstands.

The track held its first race on October 31st, 1965. The American 500 was the talk of the town(s) and the Blue Laws were even lifted for the event.

48,000 race fans showed up for that race!

Curtis Turner won the race in his 1965 Wood Brothers Ford. Even more exciting, this was Turner’s return to racing after a ban imposed by Bill France. Tim Flock and Curtis had started to organize a union for the drivers, with some encouraging from the Mob. (yes, that mob) France wasn’t having any of it. He enforced his “any driver in a union will not be allowed on a NASCAR track” with a pistol, and banned the two drivers for life.

Well, for almost Life.

The track was actually built using a computer- it was the most high tech race track of the time.  8,000 tons of asphalt were used- the track’s original banking was at 16 degrees. That was changed in 1969 to 22 degree banking in Turns 1 &2 and 25 degree banking in Turns 3 &4.

North Carolina Motor Speedway has been through a lot. The rough sandhill surface eats tires like no other track and it has always been a favorite among drivers and fans both. Even though some drivers have said some pretty nasty things about it, it must have been a  love/hate kind of thing. Its one tricky track and it had some of the best racing in NASCAR.

As we know, Rockingham was lost to the NASCAR circuit during the “Realignment”- the great search for the New Fan.

And as we know, our hero, Andy Hillenburg, saved The Rock in 2007 and had cars on the track by 2008. Rockingham Speedway combined history, heritage and the racing of today when they hosted the 2008 Inagural Carolina 500 in May of 2008.

The track hosted some of the most exciting racing of the weekend just this past Sunday. If you missed the ARCA race, you missed a doozy.

An interesting article on the differences between the way in which the television coverage of the major NASCAR series races vs ARCA can be found on The FrontStretch in Matt McLaughlin’s column today. “Like A Rock” talks about the ways in which the ARCA broadcast of the race at Rockingham was far superior to the Fox broadcast of, well, any of the races so far this season.

I highly reccomend it. I love my sport but I constantly worry about how much of racing we’re losing to Media Needs. But that’s not my blog. 😉 I’m just going on about the tracks..

Hope you enjoyed today’s little bit of history. In the next day or so, I’ll post about Talladega. Another track from the 1960s and a track many drivers didn’t want anything to do with.

PS. “Rockinghamlet” comes from an article in the Richmond County Journal, which had fabulous coverage of the forth coming North Carolina Motor Speedway.